Ezekiel Hart - Residence

1767 - 1843
374 Rue des Forges, Trois Rivières

Son of Aaron Hart (a founder of Montreal’s Jewish community), Ezekiel Hart was born in 1767 in Trois-Rivières and was among the first generation of Jewish Canadians. The younger Hart followed his father’s footsteps by living and working in Trois-Rivières, but his impact on Jewish political life was felt in Montreal and throughout Canada.

Businessman, fur trader, and militia officer, Ezekiel Hart sold his shares of the family brewery to his brother Moses Hart after their father’s death. Soon thereafter, Ezekiel campaigned for the Trois-Rivières seat in the Legislative Assembly of Lower Canada. He was elected in an 1807 by-election, the first Jew to be elected in the British Empire. However, when Hart was required to swear an oath of office in January 1808, he followed the custom of Jews who swore in courts of law: instead of speaking the lines “on the true faith of a Christian”, he substituted in the word Jew. The next day, attorney general Jonathan Sewell and Hart’s runner-up Thomas Coffin raised objections to his candidacy. Pointing to his altered oath, both argued that Hart was not eligible for election to the House of Assembly as a Jew. Nearing the point of expulsion from parliament, L’Affaire Hart was not resolved before the 1808 election was called and Hart was re-elected. This time, Hart took a Christian oath and was, again, expelled. Although hostility towards Jews was undoubtedly a factor in L’Affaire Hart, most historians now stress that this antisemitism was employed instrumentally, as part of the political struggles for power between the French and English.

The pursuit of Jewish political and civil rights was a family affair for the Harts: Ezekiel’s son, Samuel Becancour Hart, played a major role in carrying on his father’s political legacy after he faced opposition in a bid to become magistrate of Trois-Rivières in 1830. This incident impelled Louis-Joseph Papineau—who had voted for Ezekiel Hart’s expulsion in 1809—to enact the 1832 Act to Grant Equal Rights and Privileges to Persons of the Jewish Religion, just a year after similar rights were given in Jamaica and a quarter-century before the same rights were granted elsewhere in the British Empire. While Samuel would become magistrate in 1833, Ezekiel’s younger brother Benjamin Hart abstained from his appointment as justice of the peace in Montreal until 1837 when he was no longer required to take a Christian oath. Ezekiel Hart died in Trois-Rivières in 1843, and in 1909 his remains were moved to the section of Mount Royal’s cemetery associated with the Shearith Israel synagogue his family supported.

Compiled by Sarah Woolf



"Hart & Papineau" - Historica Dominion


Bélanger Claude, "Documents in Quebec History: An Act to Grant Equal Rights and Privileges to Persons of the Jewish Religion (1832)”. Quebec History. Ed. Bélanger, Claude. August (2000): Marionopolis College.

Davies, Alan T. Antisemitism in Canada : History and Interpretation. Waterloo, Ont., Canada: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1992.

Guide to Archival Resources at McGill University, Private Papers at McGill University, McGill University Archives, 1985, Vol. 2, p.171.

Tulchinsky, Gerald J. J. Taking Root : The Origins of the Canadian Jewish Community. Toronto, Ont.: Lester Pub., 1992.

Vaugeois, Denis,"Hart, Ezekiel (Ezechiel)", Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2000. Vol. VII.

*Image courtesy of the Canadian Jewish Congress Charities Committee National Archives.